The Hawks’ Nest


Floor Hockey Lessons
July 2, 2010, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Winterhawks

Sorry for the prolonged blogging absence. Having a baby does that to you. You know what else having a baby does? Cuts significantly into my “me” time. Especially being it was our second. With one kid, my wife and I were able to trade off. Now the numbers have been evened. How am I supposed to watch Wipeout in peace with at least one kid always around? It’s impossible.

Anyway, another reason I’ve been absent from the blog lately is we just completed our second week of floor hockey clinics around town, and I was drafted to be one of the instructors, meaning I’m not in the office much these days.

After two weeks of floor hockey, I’ve learned the following things:

-I’m really out of shape.

-All disputes among children under 12 can only be solved with relentless yelling. Calm, measured discourse serving to find a middle ground? Not a chance. If two kids both want to take a faceoff for their team, voices will be raised, faces will turn red, tears will be shed, and I will stand there helplessly.

-Kids don’t like it when adults come in on net and fire wrist shots to the top corner.

-Kids need to better learn how to protect the top corner.

-No, I mean I’m really out of shape.

-You can spend a good 5 minutes diligently explaining stick safety, making it clear the blades are to always stay on the ground, but there is a 382% chance that within 10 seconds of handing out the sticks a swordfight will break out.

-Even if they’re plastic, floor hockey pucks really hurt if they hit you just so on the shin bone.

-Don’t leave your cell phone unattended during games, unless you want to have an awkward conversation with someone as to why they received a profane, poorly spelled text message from your number.

-It’s hard not to feel awkward when you pull up to an elementary school in a white van.

-If part of your reason for signing up to teach floor hockey is that it’ll get you in shape, you probably shouldn’t be eating chicken nuggets and fries for lunch every day.

-During a scrimmage, when you set up in front of the net, feel a defender leaning into you, assume it’s a fellow teacher and throw an elbow to get them off you, well, maybe turn around first to make sure it’s a fellow teacher and not one of the bigger kids. And if that kid happens to go down in a heap, run back down to the other end of the floor before too many people realize what happened and questions start getting asked.

-Passing drills are completely forgotten once the scrimmages start.

-While demonstrating shooting technique in front of the entire group, make sure you hit the net. Otherwise you’ll never hear the end of it.

-Speaking of things you never hear the end of, when you have an open net, and the 10-year-old goalie sprawls across the crease and makes a miraculous diving save off your one-timer, just pack up and leave for the day.

-When you break into a sweat after the stretching routine, it’s probably not a good sign.

-I will never again question it when teachers demand a raise. Give ‘em what they want. They deserve it.

I say this all in jest. Well, except the part about me being out of shape. It’s really been a lot of fun. But with clinics 3-4 days a week for the next 5 weeks, don’t expect a whole lot of action on the blog. Of course, by now you should know better than that with this blog, but I feel like I should at least mention it.



On hiatus
May 18, 2010, 11:11 am
Filed under: Winterhawks

What the next few weeks will hopefully look like, although it's not likely

As you’ve probably noticed, not much in the way of updates recently.  And that isn’t likely to change soon, as I’ll be taking time off at some point in the next week (that’s right, not sure when. Just know that it’s very soon…read into that as you will).

Check back around the NHL Draft for new updates.



Draft day!
April 29, 2010, 9:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The WHL Draft is taking place live today. Here are a few places to keep an eye on:

-Whl.ca is posting the picks live as they happen.

-Winterhawks.com will have all the Hawks’ picks once they’re announced.

-Andy is posting stats and analysis for all Hawks’ picks.



Top Wins of 2009-10: #1
April 28, 2010, 9:49 am
Filed under: Winterhawks | Tags: , ,

We’re taking one last look at the 2009-10 season before tomorrow’s bantam draft serves as the unofficial start to the 2010-11 season (at least for most of the WHL, as the playoffs are ongoing). To put a bow on the season I’m looking back at the team’s top-five wins of the season. Today I look at what I consider the best win of the season. For #2 click here, for #3 go here, for #4 and #5 click here, and for the honorable mentions, follow this link.

On to the winner:

#1: March 31: 5-4 win in Game 7 @ Spokane. When the Winterhawks lost Game 6 of their first round series against Spokane to force a Game 7, a few co-workers and I kicked around the idea of driving up to Spokane to watch the game. Ultimately, the prospect of a long overnight drive back nixed that idea, and when it was announced it would be televised, that sealed it.

That night, when Spokane went up 3-0 3:31 into the second period, the decision seemed sound.

How wrong I was.

Because the Winterhawks just needed some time to get warmed up.

Just under four minutes after the Chiefs took their 3-0 lead in the second period, the Hawks got on the board on a goal by Nino Niederreiter. Ten minutes after that, Ryan Johansen made it a one-goal game heading into the third period.

But that momentum seemed short-lived when Kyle Beach, who’d terrorized Portland throughout the series, scored 6:50 into the third to make it 4-2 for Spokane. Overcoming a two-goal deficit with 13 minutes to go is a tall order, but the Hawks were game.

From that point on they carried the play, outshooting Spokane 14-6 in the third period. They put Spokane on their heels and wouldn’t let up. They cut the deficit to one when Riley Boychuk scored in a goalmouth scramble three minutes after Beach’s goal to make it 4-3. Then incredibly, they tied the game four minutes after that on another scramble, with Luke Walker finding the back of the net.

Having overcome deficits of 3-0 and 4-2, momentum was clearly on Portland’s side heading into overtime.

In the extra frame, the Hawks kept up the pressure, outshooting Spokane 12-5. Finally, with under three minutes to go in OT, Taylor Aronson collected the puck and brought it through the neutral zone. Rather than dump it in and go off for a line change, he recognized that the Chiefs players had been out on the ice on a long shift and were getting tired. Aronson skated by one defender in the neutral zone who waved at him with his stick, and drew two Chiefs with him beneath the goal line. Finally, he spotted Ty Rattie, who’d snuck into the slot untouched. Aronson put a perfect pass on Rattie’s stick, and Rattie fired it past Spokane netminder James Reid.

A Game 7 overtime winner. You can’t beat that.



Top Wins of 2009-10: #2
April 27, 2010, 11:06 am
Filed under: Winterhawks | Tags: , ,

We’re taking one last look at the 2009-10 season before Thursday’s bantam draft serves as the unofficial start to the 2010-11 season (at least for most of the WHL, as the playoffs are ongoing). To put a bow on the season I’m looking back at the team’s top-five wins of the season. Today I look at #2. For #3 go here, for #4 and #5 click here, and for the honorable mentions, follow this link.

#2: November 7: 4-3 win vs. Seattle. 2.9 seconds isn’t a long time. It’s enough time to realize Jersey Shore is awful, but that’s about it. But on November 7 against Seattle 2.9 seconds was just enough time to pull off a miracle.

The Winterhawks were hosting the Seattle Thunderbirds in front of a raucous Rose Garden crowd on Dash For Cash night. The T-Birds had a 3-1 lead heading into the third period with Calvin Pickard standing on his head in net. Chris Francis scored his second of the night 7:18 into the period to make it 3-2, but Pickard kept turning away the Hawks.

Seattle was hanging on by their fingernails as Portland kept applying pressure trying to get the tying goal. Finally, with 2.9 seconds left, the teams lined up for a faceoff in the Seattle zone, with Spencer Bennett taking the draw for the Hawks. The linesman dropped the puck, and Bennett and Seattle center Lindsay Nielsen tied each other up. The puck eventually bounced off Nielsen’s skate onto the stick of Chris Francis. And from there, well, check out the video.

Francis fired a seeing-eye shot that found its way through a forest of players and past Pickard just before time expired to tie the game at 3-3 and force overtime, while also giving him his first career hat trick.

The extra frame didn’t settle anything, so the game went to a shootout. Seattle went up 1-0 after the first round, and Jacob Berglund took the puck for Portland in the second round. He came down the ice and faked Pickard into the third row and put it past him to make it 1-1. Sena Acolatse missed his second round attempt, keeping the tie intact in the final round.

Naturally, with the game on the line, it came down to Francis to play hero once more. He took Pickard one direction, forced the goaltender to commit, then reached around and slid the puck past Pickard on his right.

Chris Francis scores the game-winner in the shootout.

When Kurtis Mucha stopped Charles Wells on Seattle’s last attempt, the team and the crowd went crazy.

When Chris Francis looks back on his WHL career, this promises to be one night he’ll never forget: a hat trick, the game-tying goal off a faceoff with under a second to go, and the shootout winner. Not bad for a night’s work.



Top Wins of 2009-10: #3
April 26, 2010, 10:30 am
Filed under: Winterhawks | Tags: , ,

We’re taking one last look at the 2009-10 season before next week’s bantam draft serves as the unofficial start to the 2010-11 season (at least for most of the WHL, as the playoffs are ongoing). To put a bow on the season I’m looking back at the team’s top-five wins of the season. Today I look at #3. For #4 and #5 click here, and for the honorable mentions, follow this link.

#3: December 4: 5-3 win vs. Everett. There were a lot outstanding individual performances by Winterhawks players this season, but there was likely no greater game by an entire line than the virtuoso performance put on by the Ryan Johansen-Nino Niederreiter-Brad Ross trio in the third period of Portland’s 5-3 win over Everett on December 4.

The Winterhawks scored four third period goals to get the win, with the scoring lines on the goals looking like this:

Niederreiter-Ross-Johansen

Ross-Niederreiter-Johansen

Eric Doyle-Ross-Johansen

Johansen-Niederreiter-Mac Carruth

That line was in on every goal in the final frame, and totaled 10 points. Again, this was in just the third period. It also bears mentioning that as Portland was scoring four goals in the third period, Everett managed just five shots. Oh, and the Hawks didn’t take a single penalty while the Silvertips took three.

But getting back to the Johansen-Nino-Ross line, their third period heroics were a salvo to the rest of the league, and kickstarted an incredible run for all three players: Ross had 20 points in December and was named the league’s Player of the Month, while Johansen was right behind him with 18 points. Nino, meanwhile, had 11 points in seven games before taking off to represent Switzerland at the world juniors, and we all know how he did there.

All three players had been having good seasons to that point, but that night they elevated their game to a new level.



Top wins of 2009-10: #5 and #4
April 23, 2010, 10:01 am
Filed under: Winterhawks | Tags: , ,

We’re taking one last look at the 2009-10 season before next week’s bantam draft serves as the unofficial start to the 2010-11 season (at least for most of the WHL, as the playoffs are ongoing). To put a bow on the season I’m looking back at the team’s top-five wins of the season, starting today with #5 and #4. Check back next week for the top three.

Drumroll please…

#5: April 7: 3-2 win @ Vancouver in Game 3. After knocking off Spokane in the first round, the Winterhawks held home ice advantage against the Vancouver Giants in the Western Conference semifinals. However, it’s fair to say things didn’t go quite as planned in the opening two games of the series, as the Giants combined for 16 goals and 99 shots in Games 1 and 2 to grab a 2-0 lead heading back to the Pacific Coliseum.

The Giants’ top line had been particularly dominant in those matchups, as Craig Cunningham, Brendan Gallagher and Lance Bouma combined for an amazing 17 points in the two games. But any ideas the Giants or their fans might have had about an easy series went out the window in Game 3.

The Winterhawks turned in an incredible defensive performance in that Game 3, beginning in the first period by doing something they hadn’t done in the first two games: keep Vancouver off the scoresheet. After the Giants had scored goals in all six periods of Games 1 and 2, the Winterhawks kept the Giants scoreless after one, and held the lead after an early power play goal by Spencer Bennett.

It was a sign of things to come in the game, as after their repeated strikes earlier in the series, the Cunningham-Gallagher-Bouma line was held without a single point in the game. Just as important, the Winterhawks limited Vancouver’s shots, as the Giants had just 31 for the game.

Portland finished with a 3-2 win to get on the board, and would take two of three games at the Pacific Coliseum to get back into the series.

#4: September 19: 5-0 win @ Seattle. It’s hard to believe that after three straight losing seasons, the Winterhawks actually came into the season with high expectations. They boasted a cast of highly-touted new faces, young players with a year of experience under their belts, and were coming off a dominating 5-1 preseason.

It could have led to an early letdown, but instead the Winterhawks opened the 2009-10 season with a statement game in Seattle, earning a 5-0 win. While the Winterhawks earned a convincing victory, no one could have predicted it would set the tone for a season series in which Portland would go an astonishing 12-0 against their I-5 rivals, as the Hawks ascended to the upper echelon of the conference while the young Thunderbirds would struggle throughout the season.

There was any number of storylines at play in this game, beginning with newly-minted starter Ian Curtis getting his first career WHL shutout. The Hawks also showed their newfound defensive prowess, holding the T-Birds to just three first period shots and 24 for the game.

The season-opener also served as a coming-out party for Nino Niederreiter. In his first career game the Swiss star announced his arrival by tallying three points with a goal and two assists. Defenseman Troy Rutkowski also had three points, and the Chris Francis-Luke Walker duo kept last year’s chemistry rolling with a goal as well.

The 2009-10 season was a storybook one, and it all got started on this night.




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